Decision 2012 -- St. Vrain mill levy override passes

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By Ben Wiebesiek

LONGMONT — Teachers and principals across the St. Vrain Valley School District must have had a white-knuckle flight Election Night.
    When early voting results were released for Weld County, the mill levy override question appeared to be sliding further into the “no” column.
    But the early voters did not predict the final results. As the voting centers turned in data to the county, the district’s fortunes began to turn.
    The district straddles the border with Boulder County, which was more enthusiastic. But in the end, Weld County voter totals had the same result: a mill levy override to raise as much as $14.8 million for a variety of purposes including smaller class sizes and more early childhood education opportunities.
    At the end of the night, the precincts in Carbon Valley reported a yes for the measure with two exceptions: a majority of voters in old town Frederick and Dacono opposed the mill levy override.
    The mill levy override would tax, on average, $10 to $12 a month on a $200,000 home, according to Mike Schiers, assistant secretary for the school board.
    Ken Schuetz, campaign chair for the YES on 3A committee, credits the success to the broad range of community support.
    “You saw parents, teachers, administrators and community members standing side-by-side and having dialogue about this issue, convincing themselves this was the right thing to do,” Schuetz said. “I think it was the community dialogue that pushed this to the point that everybody could decide on their own was needed for the district.”
    In the Carbon Valley area, Schuetz said the campaign took a distinctly grass-roots approach to educating residents.
    Schuetz cited George Heath, a trustee on the Firestone board, with being instrumental to the Eastern front of the effort to pass 3A.
    “George, along with other community members, stood up and said they wanted to make sure that, again, that dialogue, was pursued and extended in Carbon Valley,” Schuetz said.
    At the national level, the demands of education for increased tax revenue and the demands of the business community for lower taxes are sometimes a source of bitter partisan divide.
    But at the local level, the Carbon Valley Chamber of Commerce voiced its support for the mill levy override.
    At the town government level, there were occasionally moments of tension during the district’s efforts to reach out to elected officials.
    During a Dacono council session in October, councilman Steve Bruno told Schiers that St. Vrain Superintendent Don Haddad used too much pressure during prior presentations.
    “He came up — no offense — and ‘used-car-salesmaned’ the whole thing,” Bruno said. “Basically saying, ‘If you don’t pass this, we’re going to fire all the teachers. And you have a great school district. Do you want a mediocre one? You suck if you don’t pass this.’ Kind of heavy-handed tactics.”
    Now that the pressure of the campaign is over, Schuetz predicted that residents will be happy with the resources being sent to the local schools.
    “There was a budget morning last Friday morning, and the administrators, Don Haddad and the school board, discussed implementation,” Schuetz said. “They were looking at how to spend the money, like we said we’d do, on these four earmarks: recruiting and paying quality teachers, maintaining class sizes, early childhood education, and technology.”
    Schuetz said representatives within the district for each area, spoke to the board about how to move forward.
    “They helped the board and the administrators go through that discussion,” Schuetz said. “I got to be an observer of that discussion, and I’m very pleased to see that they are taking immediate action to do those four things.”
Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email bwiebesiek@metrowestnewspapers.com.